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911! Six Steps for Saving a Wet Cell Phone

It happens. You put your cell phone on a table and someone knocks over a drink. Or you leave it outside on the deck and it rains all night. Or you visit the bathroom, take that must-answer phone call from work and—oops!—there it is, submerged in six inches of flushable water. 

Assuming you’re brave enough to retrieve your phone from wherever it lands, what do you do next? 

Do you shake it out as best you can and try turning it back on? (Not recommended. The moisture might cause permanent damage). Do you look for the nearest microwave to dry it out? (NO!) Or do you take it back to the T-Mobile, Sprint, or AT&T phone shop and hope water damage is covered by the warranty? (Prepare to be disappointed!)

There is another way to go. If you act quickly, it’s possible the phone can be saved. Here’s what you should do:

1. Immediately remove the battery. (If you own an iPhone, skip this step. The battery is not removable).

2. If you have a removable SIM card, take that out as well. Even if your phone is beyond repair, you should be able to retrieve most of the information—like your phone book—that’s stored on your SIM card.

3. Get rid of any heavy moisture by blowing on the phone, gently shaking it, or dabbing it away with a paper towel. (Those cans of compressed air used to clean computer keyboards are ideal for the task, but we’re assuming you don’t carry those around with you). Do not use a hair dryer, an oven, or any other kind of heat-intensive dryer as this could permanently fry the delicate electronics.

4. As soon as you can, completely cover the phone in a bowl or bag of uncooked rice and leave it there for several hours. The rice will extract any remaining moisture. (Those small bags of silica gel will do the same thing but, again, they’re harder to come by.)

5. Blow away any rice dust from the phone and replace the battery and SIM card. Hopefully, it will power on as if nothing happened.

6. If there are no signs of life, try removing the battery, and plugging it into the charger. If it powers on, then your battery needs replacing, but the phone itself is good.

If you dropped your phone in the toilet, then you might want to wipe it down with disinfectant before you start the drying process. But don’t be too liberal with the cleaning fluids; the adhesives and other delicate material in the phone can be easily damaged.

Remember, the faster you act, the better your chance of salvaging a working phone.

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By Monica Vila for Minyanville


Updated on February 14, 2011